The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service programs staff in Arkansas recently won the National NRCS Team/Group Civil Rights Award for making significant contributions in the area of civil rights program delivery, according to a news release.

To assist historically underserved (HU) customers in south Arkansas with heir property concerns, specifically forestry landowners, they began an initiative called Keeping it in the Family (KIITF), in cooperation with the Arkansas Forestry Division and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“Meetings were held highlighting KIITF in areas where the need was identified to provide information to landowners,” said Alvin Peer, NRCS Arkansas outreach coordinator. “Since the program began in 2017, we have obligated more than $189,000 to unserved and underserved forestry producers through this initiative.”

Other highlights of the program staff’s civil rights work in 2019 includes:

• Provided civil rights training, as well as outreach, to professional organizations they represent.

• While implementing a new farm bill, obligated more than $10.1 million for historically underserved Environmental Quality Incentive Program customers in 2019.

• Awarded almost 26 percent of 2019 Conservation Stewardship Program funding to HU participants.

• Submitted a nomination and earned an award regarding a local producer. Dewayne Goldmon from Jefferson County, with whom the staff works, won the 2019 National Organization for Professional Black NRCS Employees Lloyd Wright Small Farmer of the Year award.

• Hosted a booth at the 2019 Women in Ag Conference.

• Supported more than 34 statewide outreach conferences.

“The programs staff provides exemplary service to Arkansas producers and landowners by equally committing to conserving Arkansas’s natural resources and preserving the legacy of civil rights through USDA programs,” said Mike Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist in Arkansas. “Through meetings and outreach efforts, the team stays abreast of the needs and desires of producers in the state.”